Tesla employee who rejected $15M award in racism case has payout minimize to $3M

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Aerial view of Tesla cars in a parking lot at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California.
Enlarge / Tesla manufacturing unit in Fremont, California on October 19, 2022.

Getty Photos | Justin Sullivan

A former Tesla manufacturing unit employee who rejected a $15 million payout in a racial discrimination lawsuit has been awarded simply $3.2 million after a brand new damages trial. A federal jury verdict reached yesterday gave plaintiff Owen Diaz $3 million in punitive damages and $175,000 in compensatory damages.

After the primary trial, in October 2021, a jury in US District Court docket for the Northern District of California dominated that Tesla ought to pay $137 million to Diaz. In April 2022, US District Choose William Orrick lowered the award to $15 million, saying that was the best quantity supported by the proof and regulation.

Diaz rejected the choose’s $15 million award and sought a brand new trial on damages solely. The choose’s closing directions to the eight-person jury mentioned, “It has been conclusively decided that Tesla is liable to Mr. Diaz for: (1) making a hostile work setting primarily based on race in violation of federal regulation, (2) failing to forestall racial harassment in violation of federal regulation, and (3) negligently retaining and supervising a number of of Mr. Diaz’s supervisors in violation of California state regulation.”

When Orrick determined that Tesla ought to pay $15 million final 12 months, he wrote that the “proof was disturbing. The jury heard that the Tesla manufacturing unit was saturated with racism. Diaz confronted frequent racial abuse, together with the n-word and different slurs. Different staff harassed him. His supervisors and Tesla’s broader administration construction did little or nothing to reply. And supervisors even joined in on the abuse, one going as far as to threaten Diaz and draw a racist caricature close to his workstation.”

Musk: “Jury did one of the best they may”

Diaz, who’s Black, operated a freight elevator and labored at Tesla’s Fremont, California, manufacturing unit for 9 months beginning in June 2015. His authorized group reportedly requested the jury final week to award $8 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages.

After yesterday’s $3.2 million verdict, Diaz’s legal professional Larry Organ mentioned, “I do not assume that the reality drove the selections right here. I feel it was a present whereby Mr. Diaz was attacked and his credibility was questioned,” in accordance with a Wall Avenue Journal article.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk weighed in on Twitter, writing, “If we had been allowed to introduce new proof, the decision would’ve been zero imo. Jury did one of the best they may with the data they’d. I respect the choice.”

Tesla final week objected to the jury being instructed that Diaz is entitled to punitive damages, arguing that the proof did not show Tesla acted purposely or with reckless disregard. “The file fails to offer legally adequate proof that Tesla purposely or recklessly disregarded Mr. Diaz’s complaints of racially hostile conduct by different employees,” Tesla wrote. “On the contrary, the undisputed proof reveals that Tesla supervisors responded to all of Mr. Diaz’s documented complaints of such conduct with investigations after which severe disciplinary motion towards the perpetrator.”

Plaintiff: Tesla misled jury

Additionally final week, Diaz’s legal professionals filed a movement for a mistrial, alleging that through the re-trial, “Tesla repeatedly referenced and sought to introduce improper and extremely prejudicial proof in a blatant try and mislead and prejudice the jury concerning plaintiff Owen Diaz’s character, his psychological state, and the standing of this litigation.”

Tesla “requested improper questions that, with none factual foundation, accuse Mr. Diaz of being a serial racial and sexual harasser,” made “fully gratuitous and extremely prejudicial references to Mr. Diaz’s earlier settlement with two staffing firms on this litigation,” and “sought to elicit barred testimony about Diaz’s son’s felony convictions,” Diaz’s aspect argued.

“Tesla twice tried to elicit testimony from Mr. Diaz concerning his prior felony convictions in violation of the Court docket’s April 2, 2020 order precluding Tesla from introducing such proof at trial,” the movement mentioned. In one other incident, Tesla “displayed an exhibit not admitted to the jury so it might baselessly accuse Mr. Diaz of forging a physician’s notice,” the movement mentioned.

The plaintiff’s legal professionals’ “objections weren’t all the time sustained or weren’t sustained till after Tesla’s callous disregard for the Court docket’s guidelines had its desired impact on the jury,” the movement mentioned.

Tesla additionally sued by California state company

Tesla is individually dealing with a lawsuit filed by the California Division of Truthful Employment and Housing (DFEH), which alleged that the Fremont-based “manufacturing unit was racially segregated.”

“Defendants discriminated towards Black and/or African-American employees by segregating them to undesirable work areas and/or places, assigning them to extra bodily demanding jobs, decrease stage roles, or contract positions with decrease pay and extra restricted progress alternatives, and affording them fewer development and different skilled alternatives than their non-Black counterparts due to race in violation of Authorities Code part 12940, subdivision (a),” the state company alleged in Alameda County Superior Court docket.

The state company’s lawsuit additionally mentioned that Black employees at Tesla “have been routinely subjected to offensive racial harassing conduct so extreme and/or pervasive that it created a hostile work setting.” Related allegations have been made in a lawsuit filed in July 2022 by 15 manufacturing unit employees. Each instances are nonetheless pending.

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